If You Loved 'Lady Bird,' Here's Your Insider's Guide to Sacramento
30 reasons to visit the blossoming California capital.
Sacramento is having a moment. A person can’t watch “Lady Bird” without absorbing some of the quiet charisma of California’s capital city. It’s a “magical” place, says writer and director Greta Gerwig of her hometown.
More than ever, Sacramento is undergoing a dramatic cultural shift beyond cinema. Located approximately 85 miles from San Francisco, the area is being “flooded” by tech workers and transplants who either can’t afford Silicon Valley or who long for a humbler community.
Over the past few years, esteemed chefs have opened restaurants in the farm-to-fork capital and taken advantage of its rich agricultural resources. And though the city’s art scene has always been strong, today it’s thriving; public murals, galleries, live music, theater, and award-winning museums provide affordable entertainment for all ages.
What hasn’t changed is Sacramento’s prime Northern California location. Though some outsiders mock it as a “cow town” (a jeer which residents privately cherish), the city affords a vast oasis of outdoor recreation. Two large rivers intersect near its skyline, where people swim, boat, skimboard, and waterski. The summers are hot but sweet, with lush trees and winding bike paths. In the winter, Lake Tahoe skiing is a mere 1.5-hour drive.
So consider a foray to Sacramento, whether you’re conducting business in the bustling government sector or exploring this up-and-coming destination city.
Where to Start
If you’re a Sacramento first-timer, begin on “the grid,” the intersecting network of numbered and lettered streets that comprise downtown, midtown, and East Sacramento. Most of the area is easily walkable, shaded with canopies of sycamore trees, and packed with colorful Victorian houses. Meander between the Capitol building and Old Sacramento, whose cobbled streets and swinging saloon doors muster visions of the Gold Rush.
Kimpton boutique hotels opened The Sawyer in October 2017. Don’t miss a nosh and a cocktail at its rooftop lounge, Revival, with views of the newly restored Downtown Commons (DOCO) district. Catch a Kings game or a concert (Katy Perry, Maroon 5, and more are booked for 2018) at the adjacent Golden 1 Center, one of the highest-tech sports stadiums in the country.
Best Restaurants in Sacramento
You can’t beat the city’s ingredients. Plucked from nearby fields and crops, fresh produce, cheeses, and flowers abound at various farmers’ markets. Our favorite is Sunday’s, which operates under a freeway overpass. (Don’t be deterred — Sacramentans pride themselves on their no-frills lifestyle.) For a finer dinner experience, you can’t go wrong at Ella, Mulvaney’s B&L, The Grange, Kru or the brand new Canon. Or grill your own steak at “the most elegant restaurant and dive bar” in Sacramento, Arthur Henry’s, in the Oak Park neighborhood, or the trendy Cantina Alley (if your Uber can find it). Don’t skip the droolworthy chocolates at Ginger Elizabeth.
Bars in Sacramento
Sacramento has been named one of the world’s best cities for coffee. Tickle your caffeine craving at one of Temple Coffee Roasters’ five highly Instagrammable locations. Then foxtrot over to the Shady Lady Saloon and live music venue; its signature cocktails and 1920s motif have ranked it among the best bars in the country. Or sample a craft beer at Lowbrau, located at midtown’s busiest nightlife intersection in the Lavender Heights district, the city’s historic LGBTQ neighborhood.
The Art Scene
Plan your trip to coincide with Sac Open Studios, held the second and third weekends in September, when dozens of artists around the city open the doors to their workspaces and their creative processes. Or conduct your own walking tour among the hundreds of public art installations around town. Also in 2018, Sacramento’s iconicB Street Theater is getting a state-of-the art new venue and a calendar of rousing productions, including a children's series.
Where to Exercise and Unwind
Outdoors. Period. Take advantage of the city’s flat streets for a walk or short jog: Start at Capitol Park and head west over the Tower Bridge for shimmering city and waterfront views.